Spin: The Midterm Message War

Photo Courtesy of truthdig.com

This year’s midterm elections are all about educating the public on what issues are really at stake. With less than nine months left to make their case, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is trying to set the tone and carry that momentum through.

The mantra? “Stay on message.” And it appears to be working.

What’s message number one? (Taken from a January 21 podcast on the NRSC website). Ward Baker, a high school educated ex-Marine and political director of the NRSC, calls it “the failure of Obamacare” that is “straddled around the necks of all Democrats.” The tactic kills two birds with one stone. Many incumbent Democrats planned to run on their record of voting for Obamacare, but Republicans are seizing on the bumpy and glitch-ridden rollout of the landmark program, including the canceling of health care plans for several million Americans. Connections to Obamacare is no longer a strength, as 30 million dollars of attack ads from Koch Brothers funded super PAC are telling the American people in Democratically vulnerable states.

Message number two? “…Failure of Democratic leadership…” To lead the country, although no elaboration was given. Perhaps no elaboration was necessary.

Message number three? “…Benghazi…” American intelligence failures surrounding the 2012 Benghazi embassy attack are among the selling points against a Democratic Senate majority this fall. If we expand Benghazi to include other possible foreign policy debacles, then the Republicans gain a bit more fodder in Syria (where Obama’s “red line” was so easily crossed without a solid American response).

Message number four? “IRS.” This is a reference to the scandal from nine months ago in which IRS staffers were issued “Be On the Look Out” memos for groups that may be Tea Party affiliates. The Republicans just won’t let this one go, despite the fact that corresponding investigations have failed to produce a smoking gun to the White House, and that the lists not only didn’t singularly target Tea Party groups, but were made under an IRS commissioner appointed by George W. Bush.

Staying on message for the Republicans this year is all about spin and airtime. Who can shed the worst light, the brightest, for the longest time?

The Democratic response? Weaker than most of the criticisms you read above.

“Economic opportunity and fairness, if we can keep the discussion there, then that will be helpful,” senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said. “If what happened to us in 2013 happens to us in 2014 — where it’s NSA, shutdown debacle, health-care Web site, Syria — that’s a bad issue environment.” (Quoted directly from here).

These nice-sounding terms – “economic opportunity and fairness” – might not be the sexiest you hear in this summer’s stump speeches, but a focus on economic recovery, raising the minimum wage, and equality in the workplace for women are the strongest selling points for the Democrats this year. On top of that, there seems to be a hope that Republicans will beat their issues to death and run out of steam but the time November rolls around. From the Washington Post article: “‘I don’t believe they can win the majority as a one-trick pony on Obamacare,’ said Matt Canter, deputy executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. ‘How do you persuade voters over the next eight months running that same ad over and over again?’” A frightful lack of strategy from a majority under siege.

Will a focus on positive economic trends be enough for the Democrats? Well, listen to Ward Baker speak about his two-year-old daughter. “She’s why I work as hard as I do,” he says of his daughter. “I worry about the debt that I have, the way the country’s going. She’s part of my motivation.” What economic benefits Mr. Baker believes will come from Republican Senate candidates this year (that the Democrats aren’t offering) to ease his debt worries remain unknown. They apparently aren’t part of the message.

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